Students spend summer studying overseas
By Elaine Pugh
Madison Portie in China
adison Portie of Brandon, who is majoring in finance and Chinese with a minor in cinema studies, landed a prestigious Gilman Scholarship that provided her the opportunity to study this summer at the Beijing Language and Culture University in China.
“I decided to apply for the Gilman award because of my desire to expand upon and improve my ability to speak Mandarin [Chinese] and to experience the culture of China and its people,” Portie said. “Having a tight-knit community like Ole Miss to grow in is a wonderful experience, but as technology makes our world smaller, we no longer have to accept that learning in a classroom is our only option. Now we can experience and understand the nuances of different languages and cultures, and build bridges that will help our countries work together for a brighter future.”
At BLCU, Portie took two sessions of Chinese that will provide 12 hours of credit toward her Chinese language major.
“The Gilman grant certainly helped make this opportunity available to me and other students in the United States seeking to expand their horizons,” she said, adding that she enjoyed making new international friends and traveling around China.
The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program offers grants for U.S. citizen undergraduate students to pursue academic studies abroad. The congressionally funded program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and is administered by the Institute of International Education through its office in Houston, Texas.
To further enrich her study abroad experience and to possibly help others who will be traveling abroad, Portie wrote a blog called “The China Belle—A Day in Beijing” and included photos, at https://madisonportie.wordpress.com/.
Samira Abunemeh in Jordan
While recent events in the Middle East may discourage travel to the region, a University of Mississippi senior seized the opportunity to study in Irbid, Jordan this summer and fall.
“I wanted to study in Jordan because my father is from there,” said Samira Abunemeh of Philadelphia. “I have family in the country, so I believe learning the Jordanian dialect is more important for me than to learn another Arabic dialect. Also, even with recent events in the Middle East, Jordan has been relatively peaceful. It is a safe place for people to study.”
Abunemeh is enrolled at Yarmouk University in Irbid, earning academic credit toward her UM degree in international studies. The opportunity is made possible through UM’s Study Abroad Office and CET Academic Programs.
As a member of UM’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Abunemeh also received an Honors College fellowship to support her summer study in preparation for May graduation, which requires an honors thesis.
“I can easily do research here [at Yarmouk] for my thesis as well,” she said. Abunemeh’s academic record, major in international studies and desire to learn a critical language garnered other financial support for her to continue studying at YU through the fall semester. This includes a scholarship from CET Academic Programs and a competitive national Gilman Scholarship that requires a service project upon return.
Blair McElroy, UM Study Abroad adviser, said she was not surprised that Abunemeh was awarded the prestigious Gilman.
“Samira’s Gilman application essay was one of the best I’ve had the pleasure to read,” McElroy said. “Her strong academic record coupled with her desire to learn a critical language was also very important in her application. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her; she is a stellar [representative] of UM abroad.”
Besides academic pursuits, the CET program also includes travel opportunities.
“The program offers two trips during its run, with one lasting three days and the other lasting one day,” Abunemeh said. “[In early July] we went on the long trip, which consisted of visiting the Dead Sea, Kerak Castle, Petra and Wadi Rum. I had a lot of fun; I was able to swim in the Dead Sea, see the Treasury in Petra — just like Indiana Jones — and dance with Bedouins. It was one of the best experiences of my life.”
Like the other 11 international students enrolled in the CET Arabic program, Abunemeh lives on the YU campus with a Jordanian roommate.
“We have a language pledge to only speak Arabic during our stay, so unless I am talking to family at home, I am speaking Arabic. Most of my day is spent studying or going to class, but I also meet with my language partner. She helps me learn the language as well as shows me around Irbid. Every so often, I visit either my aunt in Irbid or my family in Amman for the weekend.”
A graduate of Neshoba Central High School, Abunemeh was attracted to UM for several reasons.
“I wanted to study in state and Ole Miss had the best opportunities for me, including the Croft Institute for International Studies and a great Arabic program, which would allow me to study the Middle East,” she said. “The university also was most generous with its scholarships.”
Anna Lennep in Spain
University of Mississippi senior Anna Lennep of Moss Point returned to campus this fall after spending a month in Spain this summer studying the country’s language and culture.
A liberal studies major, with minors in Spanish, English and political science, Lennep is a Luckyday Scholar and member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She received an Honors College fellowship to help pay for her summer study at the University of Cadiz. She completed two courses in Spanish culture and history, earning 6 hours’ credit toward her bachelor’s degree, which she is slated to complete in December.
“I met people from all over the world, and I loved seeing how people of different nationalities adapted to an all-Spanish environment,” she said. “In Cadiz, the people are very laid-back and friendly. They were patient, welcoming and willing to help students who had trouble with the language barrier.”
“In Granada, I had my first experience visiting a European cathedral,” she said. “The architecture and history were absolutely breathtaking, and I found myself with chills just looking at the different paintings and such inside.”
Lennep credits the university for guiding her toward a promising future.
“Ole Miss has opened my eyes to the many opportunities available, so long as I am willing to put myself out there and take them,” she said. “Knowing I have the support of my university behind me in endeavors like study abroad and the Washington Internship Experience is comforting to me when I consider future plans and obstacles.”
She credits the Honors College for giving her “an appreciation for diverse minds.”
“I have made friends with whom I don’t always agree, but I can always respect their perspectives because the Honors College community is filled with creative, thoughtful, innovative and driven students. We may not always agree, but the college fosters students who share a passion for learning, and I like that I don’t have to feel strange for being curious when I’m among this community of scholars.”
For more information about study abroad opportunities at Ole Miss, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/study_abroad/.